The two opposition party leaders have been in talks about forming an alliance to fight 2011 elections.
Opposition parties are talking about forming a multiparty entity with a new name to fight the 2011 South African municipal elections. And the DA and Independent Democrats are hoping to entice other opposition parties to join them to form a broader opposition.
DA leader Helen Zille and ID leader Patricia de Lille have held talks on the coalition, and the ID has now sent a “process document on alliances/coalitions/mergers with other opposition parties” to both Cope and the United Democratic Movement.
The proposed partnership arrangement is loosely called “the 2011 project”. The intention is that opposition parties will not merge but rather join forces under a new name for the municipal elections.
It is anticipated the same united front will be used again to contest the 2014 municipal elections if successful in 2011. The parties could explore collapsing into one party at a later stage, said De Lille. “The opposition ‘entity’ will be something of a test run.”
An invitation to join round-table talks on the issue had been sent by Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota after he received the ID’s process document, said De Lille. A date has not yet been set for the talks.
But Cope co-founder Mluleki George said that while proposals would be considered, no mandate had been given by the party to proceed with talks. “We have to tread carefully or else it could be disastrous for us,” said George.
De Lille said she was angry that news of the proposed coalition had reached the Mail & Guardian as the opposition parties had wanted to make an announcement in March.
“The ID has been calling for opposition parties to work together for 2011 elections,” said De Lille. “Talks have been going on for some time between the DA, ID, Cope and the UDM.”
Zille confirmed that the process was under way and told the M&G that people still had “different perspectives” on a united front.
“Cope also has different views internally. Realignment is already under way but there are divergent ideas on how it can optimally occur,” she said. “I believe it will happen incrementally and not as one major event.”
De Lille said she had a mandate from the ID to hold talks but the party would hold its national conference on March 20 to get a mandate to contest the local municipal elections in 2011 with other political parties.
“Our constitution does not make provision for it and so we will have to amend it and put different scenarios before our structures,” said De Lille.
Floor-crossing was scrapped in 2008, six years after controversial measures allowing politicians to swap allegiance without losing their seats became law.
Since 2008, legislation has provided that if opposition parties merge they will lose their provincial and national representation.
However, the current political scenario was “very fluid and unstable”, said De Lille.
According to the ID process document, the party has proposed that three subcommittees should be set up to deal with policy, organisation, and the 2011 local government elections.
De Lille said the criteria for the type of councillors to field as candidates for 2011 were still being considered.